“Putting Mary everywhere, so she can make way for Jesus!” This was the idea behind a new form of mission that we organized at St. Veronica’s parish in Philadelphia. My parish is in the area of North Philadelphia that the police call the “badlands” because of the prevalence of drugs, violence and murders. The idea, inspired by a bishop in Northern Nigeria was to pray the rosary constantly in every street in the parish boundaries for seven days, ten hours a day, to promote enthronements of Marian images in homes, and closing of restaurants, stores as well as other retail stores on Sundays to allow their employees to go to Sunday Mass. I prepared “prayer support” for the mission by asking five contemplative monasteries to pray for our mission and put together an electronic sign up for others to pray every hour of the mission all over the country.
After praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary Bishop Oliver Doeme was inspired to take up the rosary as the sword that would conquer the radical Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram overrunning his diocese. Since he started rosary marches all across his diocese the group is increasingly disappearing from Northern Nigeria. My notion following his inspiration and the work of Msgr. John Sweeney at Our Lady of Peace in Santa Clara California was to “put Mary everywhere” so that she may crush the serpent operating in my parish boundaries.
The mission went from June 19 to 25th praying rosaries over virtually every street of the parish. Some volunteer prayer warriors, mostly of the Legion of Mary and our sisters of the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin Matara, took rosaries and miraculous medals that they distributed along the way. We saw many graces as I prayed outside a serial killer’s home, on infamous streets known for drugs, places where recent murders had occurred and outside of the four Botanicas, which are occult stores in our area. The sisters and I in courageous acts offered miraculous medals to drug dealers telling them to pray for conversion through Mary. I prepared an electronic signup form and physical form for every hour to be covered for 7 days 10 hours a day, but it seemed that Mary inspired various people to come at different hours. Mostly, our parishioners took up the call praying over the area.
I brought a pilgrimage image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to pray outside the botanicas with the young adults. I noticed much police presence and gunshots around these terrible stores. Later we processed through the streets one Sunday this pilgrimage image to crush the culture of death in our area.
Reflecting on the mission, I think the biggest fruit is to bring hope to the people, casting out the spirit of fear. I see my parishioners being more rooted in Marian devotion and in time we will make way for Jesus.
Fr. Joseph LoJacono, IVE, pastor of St. Veronica’s.